The moniker `bread basket of India’ has often been used for the northern Indian state of Punjab, ever since it became the cradle of the Green Revolution in the late sixties. Today, out of the 5.03 million hectare area of Punjab, 4.23 million hectares are under cultivation. The cropping intensity increased from 126% to 186% during the period 1965-66 to 2004-05. It has over the years become synonymous with prosperity, thanks to it being blessed with fertile soil and five fabled rivers.
However, today Punjab is faced with the threat of desertification. Excessive use of chemicals over decades has had unfortunate side effects. Very low soil carbon content and hence diminished productivity of soil, needing more and more chemical inputs each year to retain the yield has resulted in financially strained farmers. The water table too, has not only taken a deep dive, it has also become highly contaminated. With rapidly increasing acreage only under paddy and wheat, the evils of mono-cropping have also set in. The state is known for the country’s highest cancer rates and cancer cases much above the national average – leaving us wondering how strong a correlation there could be between living amidst soil and water leeched with chemicals and the soaring morbidity rates. Another serious issue in Punjab is that of burning paddy crop residue which has led to an increase in air pollution in New Delhi. Naandi is committed to utilize this paddy crop residue as compost and has started a compost making factory to reduce air pollution.
Inspired by a strong conviction in the power of biodiversity, non-chemical agriculture and dairy farming, Naandi has partnered with Danone Ecosystem Fund to work in Punjab. Currently, the projects being implemented in two districts of Punjab, namely, Moga and Ludhiana. Naandi aims to cover more districts in the future, in collaboration with Danone Nutricia, a baby food company of Groupe Danone. Christened ‘Punjab 2020’, this project aims to promote sustainable agriculture and dairy farming practices and healthy maternal and child nutrition in a set of 60 villages over the next six years. Naandi also plans to use technology (mobile app) to train farmers and provide a 24×7 helpline to redress any issues the farmers may have.
A senior Naandi team travelled across these villages over a period of six months in 2014 to get a deeper understanding of the situation and design a project that would indeed sow the seeds of change. It became clear that a happy and healthy farmer family was the vision that this project should have. The project started taking its first steps towards realizing an ambitious dream in April 2015.